The Brighton Belle

Remember the Brighton Belle that ran from Brighton to London Victoria and was a luxury Pullman train? The train was steam-hauled until 1933 when electric units were introduced. In 1934 the train was renamed Brighton Belle and ran with this title until withdrawal in early the 1970’s. The carriages were preserved and some are used on the Orient Express.

The meals on board were legendary. It was apparently renowned for serving kippers, and Laurence Olivier was among those who enjoyed them. I think there was a protest when kippers were withdrawn and eventually they were re-instated. I remember travelling on it with my wife on 26 September 1963 on the 5.25pm. We paid the extra cost of the ticket and just about afforded a cup of tea; the menu at that time is reproduced here.  It seemed the height of luxury to us.

Comments about this page

  • I remember The Brighton Belle. You could travel on it if you paid a supplement of 2/6d (twelve and half pence). Back in the late 1960s we would always use the The Belle if we could afford to. BR withdrew the service in 1972 much to the disappointment of many well heeled Brighton commuters, including Sir Laurence Olivier. During the last ten years of of the service, the famous Pullman cars that made up The Brighton Belle only ever recieved basic maintenance resulting in a rather uncomfortable ride. The waiters needed to be extra careful when pouring a glass of red wine or serving your soup. (Another napkin please waiter). You can still travel on a few of those famous Brighton Belle Pulman cars at the equally famous Bluebell Railway, However it will cost you a lot more than 2/6d. Thanks for the memory.

    By Christopher Wrapson (21/02/2009)
  • Hallo Dennis.Yes I well remember it. My late husband and I were at Brighton Station late at night, waiting to get home to Lewes. There was a great deal of activity causing our train to be late. I was expecting my first child so would put timing to about spring 1972. I was fortunate to have seen for myself once ,the luxury on board , due to my late mother refusing to stand, and insisting on staying where(the dining car) we were on a very crowded train, having been hurried in there by a very harrased guard. An eye opener seeing how the other half lived. Yes we did get to Brighton. If you had known my mum you would understand why.

    By Jennifer Tonks nee Smith (21/02/2009)
  • Regarding the protest about breakfast kippers on the Brighton, this is absolute fact and was led by Laurence Olivier. The breakfast kippers were reinstated and on the first morning His Lordship boarded the Belle for London and ordered scrambled eggs.

    By John Wignall (09/03/2009)
  • Does anyone remember the Eastbourne Pullman that ran from Victoria to Eastbourne in the 50s? The interesting thing is that it used the spare rake of carriages from the Brighton Belle.

    By John Wignall (09/03/2009)
  • Hi Dennis, when I was a very young boy my grandfather Norman Wallage would take me for a trip from Brighton to Victoria for a treat for my birthday. I was a keen trainspotter in my younger years and nothing surpassed standing on Burgess Hill station and watching the Belle thunder past in its latter blue and white livery. I was treated to tea and toast and one year even a birthday cake was presented by the smartly dressed waiters. I am even fortunate enough to have an original as new copy of the Final Run Menu (not sure if the kippers were on it though!).

    By Pete Hazell (13/01/2011)
  • Hi Dennis. I well remember travelling on the “Brighton Belle” shortly after the war when we lived in Hove and my Dad worked in Shoreditch. The train always arrived on the dot of 9.00am and the breakfast was absolutely fantastic. I still remember it well to this day and I am now 82!

    By Morris Jones (08/03/2011)
  • Childhood memories- turning up at the station with Mum for a trip to London, and her complaining as the next “fast” was the Belle, meaning she’d have to cough up the 2/6d supplement! I was in heaven – I loved that train, and fortunately my Mother’s knowledge of train timetables was non-existent, which meant that many trips ended up being grudgingly made by Pullman over the years. I remember specifically the upholstery in the carriages, a jazzy art deco in shades of brown, the table lamps which gave such an ambience to the whole journey, and those little bell pushes which would summon the waiter, who would call you “sir” even if, like me, you were only about 10 years old! There was a particular smell about the train as well. I can recall it now, walking up the platform and being assailed by a mixture of fried bread, toast, coffee and kippers coming from the ventilators of the kitchen cars. That, the shining chocolate and cream paintwork, the marquetry paneling and the deep carpets made the terrible juddering ride almost an irrelevance. Wonderous days – and now, they’re on the way back! Go to to see how work is well advanced on returning a 5/6 car version of the original train to the Brighton line. It’s taking a huge amount of money, and there is still much to do, but eventually it will become a reality, and Brighton will have one of its crowning glories back in business.

    By Mark Thompson (18/11/2012)
  • Regarding the Brighton Belle there was a TV programme  recently in January 2016 about the Belle and the Flying Scotsman.  The Belle I believe is being done up trying to bring it back to its former glory which I think is good. I was particularly interested to watch the programme also as I am a great fan of the late Laurence Olivier and I remember the news at the time regarding the kippers being taken off the menu. John Wignall’s comment that Larry, after all the protest by him about the kippers, ordered scrambled eggs the next morning, made me laugh.  I wonder if he used his Henry V voice when he protested about the kippers.

    By Carole Heath (22/01/2016)
  • In reply to John Wignall I have a vague recollection of travelling on what must have been the ‘Eastbourne Belle’ with my parents when I was a young boy going on holiday to Eastbourne in the 1950s. Was the train run as a proper Pullman service or just an ordinary service, albeit using spare Pullman coaches ?

    By Glyn Roberts (26/11/2017)
  • That menu from 1963 shows how isolated we were from the continent of Europe, which was as far removed as Mars is today!  Probably in 1963 the French bread and croutons that are mentioned were as close as most of us came to “eating continental”, but by the early 1970s pizza and spaghetti started to creep in!

    By Peter Groves (27/11/2017)
  • In reply to Glyn Roberts question about The Eastbourne Pullman, this only ran on Sundays in the fifties and then only for a short time. Being Pullman Car stock the supplement would have been paid as this would have been staffed by Pullman Car Waiters and would have run as Pullman Car Train.

    By JOHN WIGNALL (08/03/2018)

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